Times radio reporter Dennis McDougal--his fingers blunt and calloused from stabbing push-buttons and twirling dials--holds up the following stations as his favorites.
KCRW-FM (89.9)--National Public Radio's flagship in Southern California is easily the best station in town. Because it sticks to no given format, the Santa Monica College outlet is an electronic coffeehouse straight out of the pages of Jack Kerouac. The slightly effete staff of volunteers and their guests dish up the most varied, best produced and most lovingly programmed audio menu on the air: comedy, rock, classical, reggae, drama, news and documentary. Here, Ray Charles, Prokofiev, Bob Marley and the Meat Puppets are likely to follow a poetry reading from a Soviet dissident and lead right into "All Things Considered."
KRTH-FM (101.1)--Consistently offering the best and most comprehensive lineup of rock oldies music in Southern California, KRTH's one of the handful of pop stations that has not abandoned news and public service following the FCC'S deregulation decree of five years ago. Not only are there newscasts, KRTH's news department is one of the most honored in Los Angeles.
KUSC-FM (91.5)--For pure classical cruising music, complete with slightly pretentious but usually mute deejays, this public station has all the amenities of a dilettante's music chamber without the BMW commercials.
KNX-AM (1070)-- The most highly honored news department is the staff of KNX. More sober and analytical than its all-news rival KFWB, KNX has sometimes been accused of being stuffy. But news junkies who can't stand not knowing what's going on usually punch up both stations: KFWB to get the headline and then KNX to hear the rest of the story.
KMDY-AM (850)--Three years ago this Thousand Oaks station dumped its syndicated talk show format and started programming comedy bits, chiefly from the Golden Age of stand-up comic LPs in the 1960s. Vintage Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, Woody Allen, George Carlin intermingle with some dated duds, but the overall result is a refreshing commuter change from everybody else's rock 'n' news.
KLON-FM (88.1)--KKGO is hustling to reclaim its position as the pre-eminent jazz station in Los Angeles, but this Cal State Long Beach upstart has quietly stolen the crown. Emphasizing blues, bebop and straight-ahead jazz, KLON throws in an ace news department for good measure.
KABC-AM (790)--All-talk radio everywhere else on the dial seems dull, mordant or frenzied in comparison to KABC, though it seems a little disoriented by the loss of afternooners Dr. Toni Grant and two-thirds of the Sportstalk team (Tommy Hawkins and Lisa Bowman). Still, there's Ken and Bob and Michael in the morning--and the Dodgers morning, afternoon and night.
KXLU-FM (88.9)--Cited by Rolling Stone magazine a couple of years ago as the best college station in the country, this is L.A.'s home of outrage rock. If it's getting airplay on KROQ, it was taken off this Loyola Marymount station's playlist last month.